By Debbie Gregory.
The Bruce W. Carter Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center gave at least eight military veterans who were tested for HIV at the facility different results than tests from an outside lab, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency.
The discrepancy was only discovered after Roman Miguel, a lab director, complained to outside agencies and the White House that local managers were ignoring his concerns. Following a four-day visit to the Miami VAMC in October 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it was unable to verify the complaints after investigating the employee’s claims
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel expressed incredulity that the facility complied with new HIV testing policy only after the employee complained to outside agencies.
In a Feb. 28 letter to President Trump, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said VA investigators could not verify the claims because they loosely interpreted the deadline for the Miami VAMC to comply with the new policy for HIV testing. The nationwide VA policy, Directive 1113, required VA facilities to implement fourth-generation HIV testing within one year of its publication.
It’s unclear how many HIV tests from the Miami VAMC were sent to an outside lab.
The findings have spurred U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of South Florida colleagues to go through federal congressional channels to determine if the Miami VAMC is properly following HIV testing policy and complying with related procedures.
Their March 5th letter to U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee leaders urged U.S. Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), a physician and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Tim Walz (D-MN), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to “demand the General Accountability Office launch an immediate investigation” into the situation. They want GAO “to determine how this happened, who was responsible, to what extent this is a problem throughout the VA medical system, and what we need to do to get the Miami VAMC up to the high standard our veterans deserve.”